It took six wins to reach the Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs last year, unless you were very bad early and very good in league -- like Enochs, which was 4-6 in the regular season but got an automatic berth by finishing second in the Modesto Metro Conference.
No team wants to bet its playoff berth on such a turnaround, which is why a win early in the season has become nearly as important as league victories.
A team that has already won three games by now has got to be optimistic about reaching the playoffs. And any team with only one win needs to be nervous.
The section is inviting 64 teams to a four-division tournament, with 40 slots guaranteed to teams that finish first or second in the 20 leagues from Napa to Grass Valley to Los Banos. The other 24 are at-large berths and the criteria is number of wins, with the caveat that you get at least one win in your conference.
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That's why Turlock, a troubling 0-10 in 2009, looks more like a potential playoff team with each win. The Bulldogs are 4-0, and probably still celebrating Friday's last-second, 24-21 win over top-ranked Modesto.
That will put Turlock atop The Bee's poll, with only Franklin (0-3) to play before hosting No. 3 Buhach Colony (3-0) to open the Central California Conference.
Through four weeks, these look like playoff teams: Turlock, Buhach Colony, Pitman (CCC); Modesto and Enochs (MMC); Manteca and Sonora (VOL); Livingston and Patterson (WAC); Escalon (TVL); and Argonaut and Calaveras (MLL). These are more difficult to judge:
• East Union is 3-0 for the first time since 1993, but its victims are a combined 3-9. The Lancers should score three league wins, though, which is probably enough to earn a berth.
• Oakdale and Sierra are both 1-2, and the defending VOL co-champs open league in Manteca on Friday. One is going to be 1-3, and a big underdog when it faces Manteca and Sonora. Lose those two and the best you can do is 5-5, not good enough.
• If Los Banos falls to Merced on Friday, it's 2-3 and in a precarious position. Patterson and resurgent Central Catholic await in the WAC, so the Tigers would have to beat one to repeat last year's run to the semifinals.
• Joining Escalon from the TVL will be ... Modesto Christian, and a few others? The TVL isn't as dominant, which means MC, Orestimba, Hilmar and Ripon are in a toss-up for the four spots behind Escalon.
MC got a boost Friday from sophomore Javaughn Iverson (six carries, 160 yards, three TDs in his varsity debut). The sophomore had scoring runs of 24, 56 and 68 yards.
Hilmar took a hit when halfback Isaac Diaz left Friday's loss to Buhach with an ankle injury. QB Andrew Olson broke his wrist a week earlier, and those losses knock Hilmar from the role of co-favorite with Escalon to a longshot.
• The Mother Lode is even more of a mystery. It doesn't have a significant win, but give Calaveras respect for a 48-47 OT loss to Sonora on Friday. Linden is the only one of the six under .500, but running back Jeremy Powers is a game-changer and the Lions pushed Escalon. Hard to believe defending champion Summerville doesn't return to the playoffs, but with a stronger league the Bears need every non-league win they can get.
• ALL OR NOTHING -- What's a War without a winner? That's how Dos Palos saw the "Westside War" vs. rival Los Banos after scoring a TD with 1:32 left to get within 20-19. The Broncos lined up for the PAT kick, presumably for the tie to force overtime, but faked it and the 2-point pass gave them a 21-20 win.
The game had this amazing stat: DP's Kevin Schofield had 221 yards on 48 carries. He had 33 in the opener, so at this rate he'll finish the 10-game regular season with 405 carries. That's getting close to the NFL record of 416 -- and those guys play 16 games.
• FUTURE IS NOW -- A promising season turned disappointing before the first snap for Beyer, but early season losses are providing positive glimpses of the Patriots' future. The loss of Kaden Cline in August is providing opportunities for sophomore Jacob Bringhurst and junior Todd Van Houten (a combined 20 catches for 369 yards). Now junior McKay Marshall is taking snaps.
After going 13-of-20 for 205 yards, with two TDs and a pick in a relief role vs. Napa, Marshall started Friday. He was 7-of-15 for 80 yards, but was picked off three times. He brings athleticism to the position, though, because he can break containment -- he leads the team with 178 rushing yards and four TDs.
• CENTRAL'S TRIANGLE -- No mystery behind Central Catholic's first win, a 48-6 rout of a talented Rosemont team. The three first-quarter TDs came from Jack Killian (catch), Billy Flamion (punt return) and Craig Jones (run) -- the Raiders' playmakers.
Central is at Johansen on Friday, an interesting showdown given the Vikings' pass game and the Raiders' need to improve their pass defense. Then it's Tokay (3-0) before going into the WAC.
• GRADUATE WINS -- Central Valley coach Tim Garcia got his first win over his old school when CV beat Davis 42-24. Tyree Jones, who ran for 200 yards a week ago vs. Johansen, went off for 339 yards and four TDs on 27 carries. Gregg Tripp, Jones' brother, provided an interception and a fumble return.
Garcia took Davis to the playoffs in 1998. That team was coached by Len Johnston, who is back on the sidelines after returning in 2009.
Davis (0-4) is struggling and won't have much depth next fall: Its sophomore class lost athletes to Gregori, which opened in August. That migration should make the Jaguars competitive soon.